Collaborative research and mapping for Nairobi’s Public Transit

University of NairobiColumbia University’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development MIT’s Civic Data Design Lab , and Groupshot are working toward standardizing and opening transit data for Nairobi’s Matatus — the informal and de facto city bus system — and expanding our findings, tools, and processes globally. Building on past Kenyan-based digital mapping efforts and open source transit software, the group will produce a comprehensive framework for collecting, opening and mapping Matatu transportation data toward a mobile and equitable Nairobi.


Currently underway, a primary round of data collection and local student design workshops are growing the understanding of this otherwise misunderstood and complex system. The first series of tools will be entering development this spring to improve on data collection and transport information management in the decentralized Matatu system. This project uses Nairobi’s active mobile phone community to develop a standardized Matatu bus route for Nairobi informal buses. By developing crowd sourcing applications we hope people in Nairobi can develop, contribute, maintain and own their own transit information.




Routes Mapped

The Team


CSUD, Columbia University

The mission of the Center for Sustainable Urban Development (CSUD) is to engage in and foster education and research for the advancement of physically and socially sustainable cities. CSUD concentrates on understanding, articulating and disseminating information about the unique and important challenges and opportunities of urban development in low- and middle-income countries, as well as in its home community of Metropolitan New York.


To fulfill its mission, CSUD engages in interdisciplinary analyses of the linkages between urban transport and land use to economic development, demographic shifts, population health and climate change. It collaborates with faculty, students and researchers across Columbia University, but its work stretches far beyond the university setting. Affiliates work on the ground with CSUD, both locally and internationally, with a variety of stakeholders including local universities, officials and community-based organizations to develop policies and plans to meet their goals for sustainable urban-based social and economic development.


Founded in 2004, CSUD is one of seven Centers of Excellence focused on sustainable transportation established by the Volvo Research and Educational Foundation and is part of this global network of centers. For the last six years CSUD has worked in Nairobi on sustainable urban transport and land use. CSUD brings valuable policy and urban planning expertise to this project and will leverage its many existing partnerships to support the broader policy and citizen empowerment and awareness goals. Some of current CSUD partners that will be brought into this work include the new African Center of Excellence for Studies into Public and Non-Motorized Transport, the Department of Urban and Regional Planning (University of Nairobi), Department of Geography and Environmental Studies (University of Nairobi) and Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, think tanks like KIPPRA and civil society including the various matatu and slumdweller associations.





Civic Data Design Lab Logo

Civic Data Design Lab, MIT

The Civic Data Design Lab works with data to understand it for Public Good. We seek to develop alternative practices which can make the work we do with data and images richer, smarter, more relevant, and more responsive to the needs and interested of citizens traditionally on the margins of policy development. In this practice we experiment with and develop data visualization and collection tools that allow us to highlight urban phenomenon. Our methods borrow from the traditions of science and design by using spatial analytics to expose patterns and communicating those results, through design, to new audiences. The Civic Data Design Lab is a based in the Urban Planning Department of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).


The Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) is a department within the School of Architecture and Planning at MIT. Since its inception in 1933, the Department of Urban Studies and Planning has consistently remained one of the top planning schools in the country. Now totaling close to 60 teaching faculty members (more than half of whom are full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty), it has the largest planning faculty in the United States. The Department is organized around the following core questions of engagement and progressive change: “Can we make a difference in the world? Can we design better cities? Can we help places grow more sustainably? Can we help communities thrive? Can we help advance equitable world development?”

uon   c4dlab_logo_final

C4DLab, The University of Nairobi

The School of Computing and Informatics (SCI) is part of the College of Biological and Physical Sciences of the University of Nairobi. The School of Computing and Informatics seeks to be a leading centre of excellence in research, research and development (R&D) and advanced education in computing; addressing national and regional needs for information and communications technology and product development. The School has several ongoing partnerships and collaborations working on various research and development projects.
The School is part of the Regional Mobile Lab (mLab) Consortium. The consortium’s mission is “to facilitate demand-driven innovation by regional entrepreneurs, ensuring that breakthrough low-cost, high-value mobile solutions can be developed and scaled-up into sustainable businesses that address social needs”. The School has track record for application development at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Students are also encouraged to explore and be creative in problem solution.
In 2013, the School created the Computing for Development Lab (C4D Lab) to cater for R&D ICT4D projects and incubation. Mobility in Nairobi is one of the current projects.
















Groupshot is an innovative project design and development firm based in Cambridge, MA. Groupshot creates, researches, and develops technology-driven projects that interface with and support existing local systems. The firm has worked extensively in Nairobi on innovative technology projects and informal systems in collaboration with groups such as Ushahidi, FrontlineSMS, the NaiLab and the iHub. Groupshot is also a World Bank Innovation winner for their development-oriented technology ideas. Groupshot works with a range of partners and organizations across Nairobi and has lead projects and research relating to data, transport, mapping, design, and technology literacy. They have also mentored students and professional projects in Nairobi as part of the Institute for Global Leadership at Tufts University.



Team Leaders

Jacqueline M. Klopp is an Associate Research Scholar at the Earth Institute, Columbia University. A political scientist with extensive experience in Kenya, she works on the political economy of transportation in Nairobi at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development, a Volvo Education and Research Foundations center of excellence on Sustainable Urban Transport.


Dan Orwa is a lecturer at the School of Computing and Informatics in the University of Nairobi. His PhD research was in ICT Adoption. His research interests are in mobile phone applications, ICT4D, M4D, ICT adoption among rural communities. He is a technical committee member of the International Federation of Information Processing (IFIP) representing Kenya, a publication reviewer with ICT4D and a member of Computer Society of Kenya, a professional member of ACM, a member of VeSeL and a member of the C4D Lab


Peter Waiganjo Wagacha is an Associate Professor at the School of Computing and Informatics, University of Nairobi. He has worked on a few transport-related student research projects. His research interests include data mining, ICT4D research, M4D and data-driven human language technology and mobile technology. He has also conducted numerous mobile programming bootcamps for students and is a founder member of the C4D Lab at his School.


Sarah Williams is currently an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning and the Director of the Civic Data Design Project at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) School of Architecture and Planning School. The Civic Data Design Project employs data visualization and mapping techniques to expose and communicate urban patterns and policy issues to broader audiences. Before coming to MIT Williams was Co-Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University’s. Sarah has won numerous awards including being named top 25 urban planners working in technology and 2012 Game Changer by Metropolis Magazine. Her work is currently on view in the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York.


Adam White, co-founder of Groupshot, has worked on and consulted a variety of innovative development, infrastructure, and urban focused projects in over half a dozen countries including Kenya. He completed his Master’s Degree in City Design and Social Science at the London School of Economics. He graduated with honors from the Tufts School of Engineering with a focus in Development and Technology. He has worked extensively in Nairobi.

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